Book reviews: Children’s books for summer reading

This week Lyn reviews three children’s books prefect for summer reading and ideal Christmas presents for young family members.

Summer Days

Summer Days is a celebration of our kiwi summer as told by some of our best-known story writers, poets and illustrators.

Some of my favourites from this collection are:

  • Pamela Allen’s gentle rhythmic story about Grandpa and Thomas who go to the beach together to build a sandcastle, have a picnic and feed the seagulls.
  • Margaret Mahy’s hilarious poem about an extraordinary Christmas cake which has to be made in a wheelbarrow and stirred with a shovel or spade. It looks delicious but when carved it may well explode and blow up the kitchen and part of the road!
  • Joy Cowley’s and Gavin Bishop’s Cowshed Christmas in which all the farm animals come to the stable one by one to offer baby Jesus an iconic kiwi gift: a pavlova, a rugby ball, a pair of jandals, a hokey pokey ice-cream, a bunch of pohutukawa flowers and a pair of gumboots! Just what a baby needs!
  • Melanie Drewery and Christopher White Dad’s Takeaways. The family pile into the car to get what Dad promises will be the best takeaways ever. But his children are mystified when he drives past the fish and chip shop, the pizza place and even past the burger bar. The mystery destination turns out to be an isolated beach where he shows them how to gather kai moana and cooking it over a fire built with driftwood. They have a wonderful feast.
  • My Other Jandal by Don Franks and Vasanti Unka, a poem about a boy who loses one of his jandals every summer. His carelessness makes his mother mad!
  • And to finish, there’s Patricia Grace’s beautiful lullaby Whisper to Me in both Maori and English to send little ones off to sleep

Summer Days made me feel a little nostalgic about summers past when our kids were young. We used to hire a bach up North to swim at Cooper’s beach, fish from the wharf at Mt Mongonui and eat fish and chips in the evening. Life was simpler then with no iPad or cell phones to distract us.

It is always good to have a new book with lots of stories and poems on hand over the summer holidays. Some would be good to read out loud to preschoolers. But older children can enjoy reading the book themselves. So when children of different ages pop in or come and stay Summer Days will help to keep all of them entertained.

Title: Summer Days

by various authors

Imprint: Puffin HB,

RRP $45

The Very Noisy Baby

As every parent knows even the loveliest babies scream their heads off sometimes.

The baby in this book, who lives in a little pink house on the edge of the town looks very sweet and innocent but she can bellow like a buffalo, roar like a lion and howl like a wolf for a very long time.

Now it so happens that rather a lot of people in the neighbourhood have lost their animals. The first is Coco the zookeeper who is searching for an escaped tiger. When she hears a growl from inside the little pink house she knocks on the door only to find that it wasn’t the tiger she had hoped to find but only a roaring baby.

She is followed by the pony club girls who have lost their horse, Professor Tom Twitchy who is seeking the uncommon blue-speckled owl, Frances the farmer whose cow has jumped over the fence and Mr McAlpine whose cockatoo flew off during the night. All come knocking on the door thinking they have heard their lost creature but it is only the very noisy baby.

Over a nice cup of tea, they have a chat about how to find them. No-one has any bright ideas until big sister suddenly scoops the baby up from the floor, shouts “All follow me!” and races out the door. And she does indeed have a clever plan which as you can probably guess involves the baby.

No doubt little ones will love imitating all the weird and wonderful noises this baby makes so be prepared for lots of noise when you read them this quirky tale.

And should you have a baby in your house who has a tendency to bellow, knowing that there is an (albeit fictional) baby out there who is even louder may well be a source of comfort.

The Very Noisy Baby by Alison Lester

Hachette NZ

RRP $24.99


The Little Mouse’s Tail

Mouse liked to keep her tiny house spick and span so one day she went to the market to buy herself a broom. She tied it to her tail so she could pull it back home easily. But the broom was wider than the doorway. It got stuck and when she pulled it hard to free it her tail snapped off!

She took it to a tailor to have it stitched back on. But he had run out of sewing yarn. So she went to a yarn-spinner. But he didn’t have any wool to spin into yarn. So the determined little mouse went looking for a woolly sheep. On the way, she ran into a nasty farm cat who was about to pounce and eat her for his dinner. But luckily a farm dog came to her rescue and became her protector and friend. So the little mouse was able to continue with her quest and after more adventures, along the way, there was a happy ending.

The moral of this story is that when you strike a problem tears won’t help. You have to be brave, to get out there and with the help of others keep looking for a solution.

I spotted this self-published picture book on a market day in our local shopping centre and heard the backstory.

The Little Mouse’s Tail is based on an old fable which Ardi, the illustrator had been told by his Grandma in Iran.

He very much wanted to share this story from his own culture with his daughter Harley and other children in New Zealand. With the help of his wife and his father-in-law, the story was adapted and put into rhyme.

It is expensive to self-publish but they successfully raised the money for the printing costs through a Kickstarter campaign. The result is a charming and professional looking picture book with very appealing illustrations. The background has been kept simple and the animals are stylised but with expressive faces.

Little ones would enjoy hearing this fable about a brave little mouse all the way from Persia.

Title: The Little Mouse’s Tail an old Persian Story

Illustrated by Ardi Alemi and re-written and rhymed by Charlotte and Russell Wanhill.

RRP $30

Can be ordered on


Reviews by Lyn Potter

Parent and grandparent, Avid traveller, writer & passionate home cook

Read more by Lyn here.